Twilight / go gently / and let your eye be caught / by little things// (p.178)
This is the final poem in Zaro Weil’s stunning new anthology, Cherry Moon. I’ve started with it because the words capture the spirit of this collection and the way the poet draws her reader’s gaze into the smallest details, giving pause for thought and space to wonder.
Its sub-title is ‘Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature’ and it’s the gentle way in which we are led through a poem to these ‘big ideas’ that is so powerful. Take ‘How does the flower open’ (p.24): ‘how does the flower open / in petal time / how does the rain fall / in drop time…’ to the finale: ‘how does the earth turn/ in all the time//’. That final line causes a momentary intake of breath.
There are miniature jewel-like poems: ‘Pipsqueak’ (p.32) … and have we discussed / the pipsqueak blossoms / on miniscule stems / buried in tiny / grass spears?//’ and BLUEBELLS (p.33) ‘sprung from blue sky / fed by green rain / pushing always / towards April / and me//
A shiny sun (p.50), ‘so bright / so tiny /… I even heard / some people call you / buttercup//’.
The book is studded with haikus: for a snapping turtle, a gosling, a hippo, a flea, morning twilight, even a noisy toe! Adhering to the syllable count, these haikus are arranged elegantly across more than the more usual three lines. The compression delights: In ‘Worm’s Haiku’ (p.57) the worm is ‘excavating / tiny roads / expressly / for April//.
There’s nimble word play: ‘After the Purple Rains’ (p. 20) offers wildflowers that ‘hurtle and tumble / skimble-skamble / harum-scarum / helter-skelter/’; and ‘Mudpuddling tonight’ (p.128) has us ‘sloshgurgling / all the way home/. In ‘A Parade of Beast-Doodles’ (p.52), the poet awakes to ‘a sky full of clouds / all puff-poms and lace-feathers/… so ‘all I could do was / lie down / to skybig/ to clouddream/’. And on no account should you miss the ‘Preposterous Penguins’ (p.171) who ‘pause to participate / in a particularly polar pageant/’.
The poems unfold at a measured pace. At times, it is like taking a slow, gentle walk through a changing landscape, stopping from time to time to observe: ‘life is big / thought the ant / carrying the / apple seed / to its / nest’ /…life is big / I thought / seeing the/ whole wide world / while walking home / real slow//’ (‘Life is Big’ p.42).
Junli Song’s atmospheric illustrations capture the mood of the anthology. They are populated with benign half human, half animal creatures. Working with a limited colour palette, they enhance the wit and humour of the poems. For the small green frog haiku (p.66), the green frog reclines in a red cup with white spots. Look closer and you’ll see that the red dots that created the spots are making their way across the page to ‘Ladybird’s Song’ (‘have you seen / my new polka dots this season?’ / . And the illustrations match the beauty of the words: ‘Polar Bear’ (p. 145) a white polar bear family makes its way across an inky blue landscape below a startling cherry moon reflected in the water.
They also reflect the energy of the poems: for the ‘capricious summer sprites’ of ‘Flicker and Flash’ (p. 60), elegant, graceful personified balletic dragonflies perfectly chime as they ‘flicker and flash’ against a ‘perfumed peach sky’. Sprightly frogs leap opposite ‘Tip-Top of the World’ (p.26) ‘catching the delicious mist / on their long tongues’.
It’s a beautiful collection on so many levels: the orchestration of the sparsely punctuated text and Junli Song’s mysterious and witty illustrations contribute to its delight. To conclude, the title poem ‘Cherry Moon’ (p.59) is worth replicating as it epitomises the joy, wonder and magic of this prize-winning anthology. It sits alongside Junli Song’s illustration of a cherry moon glimpsed through white trees whilst ethereal creatures and humans dance in the moonlight: Cherry moon / smooth / red / so perfectly shined/ were you ever really / a blossom//.